Browsing through a large music collection is slow and tedious too, by iPod standards at least – basic artist, album and genre filters are available, but in each case you have to look through everything on the hard disk to find what you’re looking for. There’s no initial letter search and scrolling is slow too. I’d also liked to have seen more storage capacity too or at least the facility to expand it. With hard disks so cheap these days, supplying the WACS700/05 with just 40GB seems stingy.
The centre can play back WMA, but won’t play AAC, so iPod and iTunes enthusiasts are left out in the cold and it won’t play OGG Vorbis either. More seriously, it won’t let you play downloaded copy-protected music files – almost unforgivable. And unless you have an infrastructure-based wireless network (using an access point or router), you can kiss goodbye to wireless connection with your PC too – it won’t work with ad-hoc networks.
On top of that, ripping CDs isn’t exactly quick: the first disc of The Very Best of the Gipsy Kings took a mammoth 20 minutes to convert at 160Kbps, at the ‘fast speed’ setting. And transferring CDs using the wireless connection is disappointingly sluggish. With the base station in the same room as my PC and wireless access point, an eleven track album took three and a half minutes to transfer. Connecting directly via the wired Ethernet connection didn’t improve matters much, with the same album transferring just 40 seconds quicker.
And although musically the WACS700/05 is perfectly acceptable, the sound quality is by no means the best you can get for this sort of money. The main problems are created by the unit’s construction and the built-in sub-woofers. While the system’s electrostatic flat-panel speakers create sparklingly clear mid- and high-notes, lower notes aren’t dealt with nearly as well. The plastic housing can’t help matters here – though the speaker chassis seem solid enough, the centre part of the unit at the back seems relatively thin and insubstantial.